Klondike Kate’s former jail cells become wine cellar
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 21:02
Klondike Kate’s Restaurant and Bar on Main Street is nearing the end of its recent renovation project, which included revamping the former basement prison cells into a wine cellar with a history so rich it rivals the very wine it houses.
The prison cells were built in the 1880s, and the Newark police paid the owners $10 a year to use them as lockups for drunkards and disorderly citizens, according to Klondike Kate’s website.
But Bob Baker, a restaurant manager at Klondike Kate’s, says the basement was not exactly akin to a prison and served as “more of a bar version of a police station.”
“Once upon a time, Klondike Kate’s was a police substation, and, ironically enough, those jail cells were used as holding cells for local town drunks and the such,” Baker says. “They go back quite a ways.”
While the project will not be officially complete until March, the wine racks are up and the wine bottles are in, Baker says. The restaurant has also been updating its Facebook and Twitter pages with pictures of the renovation process.
Freshman Taylor Freas, who works as a hostess at Klondike Kate’s, says they have a separate menu containing a list of the new wines, all of which are available now.
“All the servers had to come in and learn about all the different wines, and then the ones that were 21 could taste the different wines that we had,” Freas says of a recent staff training session.
And while Baker says many people under 21find wine intimidating, such as the primarily younger staff, they are working on bridging the age gap.
“Most people that that turn 21 find wine to be a whole ’nother world,” he says.
Baker says the cellar concept first came about when his owner challenged him to put together a wine list, but his concern was storing the beverage downstairs in a very hot room, where the taste could be affected by temperature.
Lying awake one night, Baker says he realized that the old jail cells, though in close proximity “abnormally hot” liquor room, had significantly lower temperatures and thus would be an ideal solution for storing the new wines in the basement.
After finalizing the location, Baker says they began perusing potential labels to stock in the cellar.
“There’s obviously thousands upon thousands of wines out there, but a lot of them have different names or different themes,” he says.
Accordingly, Kate’s wine selections range from “Prisoner” to “Fingerprints” to “Justice” and while the entire inventory does not pertain to jail jargon, Baker says there are enough to make customers wonder about the prison motif.
“That gives the server or the bartender the opportunity to tell the story of how we came up with the whole thing,” he says.
Prior to the construction of the wine cellar, it was not out of the ordinary for customers to request to see the prison cells.
But before the renovation, which Baker calls “kind of my baby,” he says it was often a bit embarrassing to show customers the basement due to boxes and clutter. However, he says now they are proud to take people to the basement.
Freas says she enjoyed showing the prison cells to customers who knew about the basement’s history, but added that the renovation was a “perfect” solution in terms of storage space.
“We actually have somewhere to keep everything,” she says.
Kim Teoli, a first year graduate student, says she thinks the project enriches the establishment’s history.
“I think it’s a cool thing,” says Teoli. “It adds to the story. It makes it kind of an attraction.”
Baker says Klondike Kate’s already offers promotions almost daily, and as an added service for customers the wine is “simply another way” to drive sales.
“It’s also an added service for the customers,” Baker says. “Wine is something that everyone can enjoy. Kate’s has always kind of been associated with a beer, a shot—so this is us ‘raising the bar,’ so to speak.”